The two volumes under review cover a remarkable journey spanning upwards of four decades. They contain a selection of papers from among Devaki Jain’s prolific writings the central theme of which collection being, among other things, not just the interrogation of ‘development’ from a feminist perspective but dissecting ‘development’ itself. Each of the papers in the two volumes is illuminating in its own way; overall the volumes bear testimony to Jain’s ability to provide perceptive observations that go beyond critique to demonstrate how the same development-oriented programmes could have been turned around to achieve the fundamental objective of transformation of society of which women’s empowerment is an integral component.
Needless to say, this review cannot discuss every paper; rather, it will highlight some of the more important learnings that the journey of this Southern feminist has produced and as documented in the collection. The thematic discussion below of some of the collection is based on the reviewer’s reading of the papers; the author herself has preferred not to organize her material thematically, which is a pity, since the collection would have benefitted immensely, analytically, if this exercise had been undertaken.
Feminist Theorizing: What have India and the Global South Contributed
In several papers across the two volumes, Jain points out how the mode of ‘doing’ women’s studies (either through field-based research, engaging with the state on development policies, participating in global fora, or, through critique of mainstream disciplines) has produced knowledge that has enabled scholars to self-critically and repeatedly come back to the question of ‘who is a feminist?’ and what uniquely defines, sustains and enables the expansion of feminist principles in all walks of life, even given deep differences over language, religion, caste, race and region.